7061 East Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, Ohio 44131 • (216) 241-2630 / Fax: (216) 241-6516

Membership
Benefits
News and Issues
Departments
Information
Secretary-Treasurer
Merchandise
Communications
FELA
Events
Links
User Info

California high-speed rail commission set to award contract to group with ties to Schwarzenegger

(The following story by Shane Goldmacher appeared on the Los Angeles Times website on September 3, 2009.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —California's high-speed rail commission, dominated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointees, is set to award a $9-million contract today to a company led by the governor's top political advisor and his former campaign manager.

The three commission staff members charged with recommending a public relations firm have advised the board to give the contract to Mercury Public Affairs at its meeting today. Schwarzenegger strategist Adam Mendelsohn is a partner at Mercury, as is Steve Schmidt, who managed the governor's 2006 reelection effort.

Two members of the staff panel are former Mendelsohn colleagues.

Ethics watchdogs raised questions about the appearance of favoritism.

"You can't help but raise your eyebrows," said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause.

"We are seeing a revolving door of legislators and former state officials and state employees going from public service to private PR firms . . . and pulling on all the personal relationships that they've developed to build up their business."

One member of the staff panel, Jeffrey Barker, previously served as associate and deputy communications director in the governor's office, working daily with Mendelsohn. Barker also worked with Schmidt.

A second panel member, Michael Bowman, also has ties to Mendelsohn and the Schwarzenegger administration. Bowman was deputy secretary for communications of Schwarzenegger's Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, and Mendelsohn served as the governor's communications director.

Barker, now deputy director of the California High Speed Rail Authority, said the panel followed a "regimented process" and that there was no conflict of interest.

"We evaluated these proposals based strictly on communications and outreach abilities," he said.

Barker said he and Bowman "knew members of every single [public-relations] team that came in," not just those at Mercury. He did not consider recusing himself, he said.

Mendelsohn said there was "absolutely not" a conflict.

"We have full confidence that the extensive campaign plan that we developed was superior to any other plans put before the committee," he said.

Mendelsohn cited Mercury's "issue expertise," noting that Tracy Arnold, who previously served as Schwarzenegger's high-speed rail point person, is on the company's staff.

California voters approved a nearly $10-billion bond last November to begin building a high-speed rail network connecting Southern California to the Bay Area and Sacramento.

The contract runs through June 2014. The $9-million public relations effort is needed, Barker said, because "up to this point there hasn't been enough outreach, and the public doesn't have the information about this project that they demand and deserve."

Four of the nine commissioners who will vote on the contract today were appointed by Schwarzenegger; a fifth continues to serve at his pleasure. An additional rail board member, Tom Umberg, was appointed by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). Nuñez is also a partner in Mercury Public Affairs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Like us on Facebook at
Facebook.com/BLETNational

Sign up for BLET News Flash Alerts

© 1997-2021 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen

 


Decertification Helpline
(216) 694-0240

National Negotiations

Sign up for BLET
News Flash Alerts

DAILY HEADLINES

STB asks Class Is to report on intermodal supply chain problems
Supply-chain backlogs turn Chicago into chokepoint
PSR: A bit more scrutiny
Drone images show coal from derailed CSX train going into the James River
Union Pacific to build state-of-the-art transload grain terminal near Chicago
Updated: Q&A regarding unemployment and sickness benefits for railroad employees
Unemployment and Sickness Benefit flexibilities under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) during the COVID-19 virus outbreak
RRB issues Form BA-6, statements of service
Get the latest labor news from the Teamsters

More Headlines